Jim Haveman, a Grand Rapids native who has twice headed the Michigan Department of Community Health, retired for good this month and noted he is especially proud of the rollout this year of Gov. Rick Snyder’s Healthy Michigan Plan.
“As I look back on my 46 years, the successful launch April 1 (of Healthy Michigan) and where we are today will certainly be what I look back on,” said Haveman.
When asked what impact the Affordable Care Act has had on Michigan, Haveman noted, “A year and a half ago, we had 1.2 million uninsured,” and 570,000 of them were working, many earning minimum wage. When they needed to seek medical care, many were “stuck with the bill — and they couldn’t pay it.”
Today, however, about 650,000 Michiganders have health insurance coverage, either through the Exchange or the Healthy Michigan plan, according to Haveman.
When it was rolled out, state officials predicted it would cover 320,000 Michiganders in the first year.
“We’ve exceeded that by almost 50,000,” Haveman commented Sept. 12, his last day on the job. He predicted by year-end it will cover 400,000 Michigan residents between the ages of 19 and 64.
The Affordable Care Act is “something that we turned into a positive asset for Michigan,” he said, because the various taxes and fees levied under the ACA on business, industry, HMOs and insurance companies have provided the revenue to introduce Healthy Michigan.
Haveman said the stories just keep coming in about people who have gone back to work in Michigan because they now have had their debilitating medical and dental problems treated.
Michigan’s expansion of Medicaid will provide some basic health-care coverage to working individuals who make between $8 and $12 an hour, according to Haveman. That translates as coverage for individuals earning less than $15,000 or $16,000, and families with incomes of $30,000 or less.
“If we had not done Medicaid expansion, all that money would have gone to another state,” said Haveman, adding only about half of the states have expanded it as required under the ACA.
“Gov. Snyder saw the benefit, took the lead and got the Legislature to pass it,” he said.
American politics has become so polarized over the issue of national health-care coverage that in the states where the ACA has been ignored, Haveman said, “unfortunately, the people who need it the most lose out.”
Haveman said 77 percent of health-care expenditures in Michigan are for chronic diseases, “much of that preventable.”
“We really want to educate people early on, and we’ve got to educate the kids, too,” he said. “The health-care dollar is a huge part of our economy, and we need to not let it explode so that it just takes over without good outcomes.”
In late 2012, after he was named by Snyder to head the Michigan Department of Community Health for the second time, Haveman told the Business Journal it was a $15 billion enterprise that provided health care to 20 percent of Michigan residents.
His first stint heading MDCH was under Gov. John Engler from 1996 to 2003.
Haveman, 71, now lives in Grand Haven.
Haveman earned a master’s degree in social work at Michigan State University in 1968. He worked with various agencies as a social worker and on the Kent County Community Mental Health Board, and later was CEO of Bethany Christian Services.
After his stint as head of MDCH under Engler, he was appointed by the White House to serve as acting minister of health in Iraq, and then senior advisor there to the U.S. ambassador, from 2003 through 2004.